The Orange County food scene is thriving and we couldn’t be more thrilled. Throughout 2017, new restaurants have been popping up, offering an array of cuisine. From casual options like hot dogs and hamburgers to an upscale sushi joint, a waterside public house and an innovative Creole restaurant, there is something to please all taste buds. These choices are some of the hottest new spots in the area.

(Credit: Don Leach/Daily Pilot)

Roux Creole Cuisine
860 Glenneyre Street
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
(949) 715-3707

Creole food isn’t something that Orange County has a lot of, but Roux is changing the game with everything from their décor to their menu. With antique wooden furniture, an open kitchen and black-and-white pictures from chef Norm Theard’s own family history on the wall, it’s a beautiful ode to personal kitchen tables in Louisiana. But it’s the flavorful menu that really makes this small joint what it is—a great place for people to come together and enjoy the night. The most unique dish on the menu is the garlic salad, comprised of spinach, eggplant and brie cheese alongside pickled corn, red bell pepper sauce, parsley puree and roasted garlic. Some other must-trys include the catfish, the seafood and meat-filled gumbo and the incredible bread pudding with bourbon sauce.

(Credit: Porto’s Bakery & Cafe)

Porto’s Bakery & Cafe
7640 Beach Boulevard
Buena Park, CA 90620
(714) 367-2030

It’s only been a few months since Porto’s Bakery & Café opened its first Orange County location, but that hasn’t stopped locals from getting excited about this family-owned and operated business. The company was founded based on its custom and specialty cakes, which are still crafted today. The bakery also makes everything from croissants and loaves of bread to cookies and pies. Stop to dine in and you can order the bakery items to accompany your meal from the café—the menu of which features a variety of soups, salads, sandwiches, tamales and tortas as well as smoothies and teas.

(Credit: Viking Dogs)

Viking Dogs
515 North Main Street
Santa Ana, CA 92701
(657) 232-3368

Already a popular food truck, Viking Dogs was well known before it even opened up shop in the McFadden Public Market at the end of the summer. But now you don’t have to scour the web to find the location of OC’s hottest hot dogs. The restaurant serves many of the same items available at the truck, including a selection of signature sausage dogs, corn dogs and tator tots. From beer cheese sauce, jalapeno relish, Viking ketchup and even beer-infused black bean chili, the toppings are out of this world. The Dragon Eggs tator tots, which also feature the chili and the ketchup, are loaded with cheddar cheese, crema and spicy Sriracha sauce while the Drunk Tots feature sauerkraut, red cabbage and the jalapeno relish.

(Credit: Lauren Gruel)

2222 Michelson Drive
Irvine, CA 92612

The first Butterleaf location opened up this spring from Andrew Gruel, the chef behind local favorite Slapfish. Ingredients are expected to change seasonally so that only the best produce is presented to diners, in dishes like burgers (with black bean quinoa patties), burritos, tacos, salads and bowls. They also offer a variety of sides, including avocado bombs, sweet potato fries, poutine and a veggie chowder.

(Credit: Lido Bottle Works)

Lido Bottle Works
3408 Via Oporto
Newport Beach, CA 92663
(949) 529-2784

Located right next to the water of the Newport harbor at Lido Marina Village, Lido Bottle Works is a fun new public house that obviously emphasizes their beer and wine menu—as well as kombucha on tap. However, their food takes the experience to a new level. Chef Joel Harrington—who rides his bike to work each day, picking up fresh fish on the way—has crafted a menu full of fresh and locally sourced ingredients with innovative twists. Intended for sharing and expected to change seasonally, the current menu includes stand-outs like goat cheese fritters with red pepper aioli and tuna tartare with unique chili-flavored pop rocks. The Iberico secreto pork with carrot ginger puree is another delicious option while taste buds will also love the burrata, made with peaches and smoked pecans for summer but expected to contain squashes later this fall.

(credit: Leah S./yelp)

204 West 4th Street
Santa Ana, CA 92701
(657) 266-0855

Take a vacation with this new bar and restaurant in historic downtown Santa Ana. As the name implies, the menu is inspired by places around the globe, leaving guests feeling like they’ve been on a trip when they’ve really only traveled down the street. Whether it’s influence from Spain, Thailand or a South American country—or even New York City—you’re in for a treat, and the plant-filled interior definitely makes you feel like you’ve been transported. Sample ceviche with sea bass and shrimp, pork belly lollipops, seasonal vegetables, a chicken skin quesadilla or bleu cheese ice cream. The cocktail menu is also travel-inspired, with cities serving as the names of the drinks. Think matcha green tea and sake for Japan, strawberry ale and manzanilla sherry for Spain, and blackberry, gin and sparkling rose for London.

(Credit: Anne Watson Photography)

Hendrix Restaurant and Bar
32431 Street of the Golden Lantern
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677
(949) 248-1912

From the owners of Laguna’s Driftwood Kitchen comes Hendrix, a restaurant that opened up in the spring with an assortment of rotisserie meats and the dishes that complement them. Choose from natural porchetta, rosemary lemon chicken or a leg of Colorado lamb for dinner, or try the sampler platter that comes with a little of all three. The lunch menu, which includes the lamb and ham in sandwiches, also offers a burger and a fried catfish sandwich. When seeking out small plates to pair with your meats, consider the impressive squash blossoms, the grilled octopus, the chicken flatbread or the lobster mac and cheese.

(credit: Danika F./yelp)

Cruisers Pizza Bar Grill
210 5th Street
Huntington Beach, CA 92648
(657) 301-2200

Over the summer, a popular Newport Beach pizza joint opened up a new restaurant in Huntington Beach. In addition to their thin and crispy pizzas and gluten-free pizzas, Cruisers offers specialty stuffed pizzas like the Bacon BBQ Chicken, Hot & Spicy, Veggie and the Southside Special. But their menu doesn’t end with their unique pizzas. Diners can also enjoy a selection of burgers, sandwiches, hot dogs, pasta dishes, soups, salads and wraps as well as appetizers like ahi poke, pretzels, nachos and wings. The restaurant’s sole dessert is the American Filth, a blend of brownie and cookie dough dipped in funnel cake batter and topped with ice cream.

(Credit: Burger Boss)

Burger Boss
15080 Kensington Park Drive
Tustin, CA 92782
(657) 245-3080

Burger Boss recently opened their fourth restaurant in Tustin with another planned for Newport Beach soon. Offering burgers and fries that are made to order, Burger Boss also offers grilled chicken, turkey and black bean patties in addition to the standard grassfed beef. Their bun options are outstanding as well, with wheat and gluten-free options alongside the white buns. Next, you’ll select your cheese; choose from American, cheddar, gouda, blue cheese crumble, aged Swiss, pepper jack and provolone. Add some toppings, like standard lettuce, mushrooms, onions, pickles and tomatoes, or opt for unique inclusions like pineapple, grilled onions, jalapeños, turkey bacon or even a fried egg. The finishing touch is the sauce—also customizable.

(Credit: Oak Laguna Beach)

Oak Laguna Beach
1100 South Coast Highway
Laguna Beach, CA 92651
(949) 940-3010

This modern restaurant combines California casual fare with rustic décor for a comfortable environment in which to eat and drink among friends. The welcoming atmosphere is enhanced by the eclectic menu, which includes plenty of seafood that is perfect for Laguna’s coastal community. Try the seared salmon, pistachio-crusted mahi mahi or Asian shrimp cake. Other entrees include pork chops, rib eyes and fried chicken. You can also turn your meal into a sandwich or taco. Soups, salads, vegetables and fries are also available. Small shared plates like meatballs, ceviche and an albacore stack complement ocean-inspired cocktails made with fresh organic juices, brewed ales or sparkling wines.

(Credit: Caffe Pinguini)

Caffe Pinguini
6507 Quail Hill Parkway
Irvine, CA 92603
(949) 725-1773

A hidden gem in Los Angeles, Caffe Pinguini, opened its doors at a second location in Irvine in May, offering an Italian menu full of both traditional and modern recipes. To say that the wine list at the restaurant is extensive would an understatement. Order by the glass, the bottle or even the half bottle, with special selection of high-end cellar options. The dinner menu includes a variety of salads, traditional antipasti like caprese or eggplant parmigiana, pizzas, pastas and risotto as well as a selection of chicken, veal and fish dishes. Expect the meals to remind you of those cooked in a friend or family’s kitchen rather than a restaurant.

(Credit: Ryan Garvin)

3450 Via Oporto
Newport Beach, CA 92663
(949) 429-4440

Just down the waterfront from Lido Bottle Works is Nobu Newport Beach, a sushi bar that is a big hit in other metro areas like Los Angeles, London and Las Vegas. There are ‘classic’ and ‘now’ sections on the menu, the former of which contains monk fish pate, salmon kelp rolls, lobster shitake salad, spicy snow crab, lamb chops, eggplant spicy miso and lobster ceviche. The ‘new’ section has more contemporary things like black truffle oysters, salmon nashi pear, king crab with uni, filet with promegranate teriyaki and crispy shitake salad. There is also a large selection of nigiri, sashimi, hand rolls and cut rolls to choose from as well as an eclectic dessert menu.

(credit: Anthony P./yelp)

West Coast Fish
2981 Bristol Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
(714) 549-2887

Since opening in March, this family-owned joint has offered a selection of fresh fish and produce from local gardens and farmer’s markets. The menu, though simple, is full of delicious options. Start with a salad, of which there are two choices: citrus or Caesar. Wraps with shrimp or mahi are served with rice and corn while bowls come with rice and vegetables. Within the bowls, choose salmon, shrimp, yellowtail, tuna and mahi. Similar ingredients are available for the tacos on the restaurant’s menu. If that isn’t enough to fill your belly, consider the small plates like tuna poke, chips, kale slaw, crinkle fries, broccolini, soup or a faux crab hand roll.

Ashley Ryan is an Orange County native that loves traveling, live music and photography. She blogs at Pure Wander and freelances for a variety of publications including Newport Beach Magazine and Laguna Beach Magazine.


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